'AFC' vs 'NFC': What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on September 20, 2023

If you need to know the difference between 'AFC' vs. 'NFC,' this guide will help!

Here is the short answer: 

  •  'AFC' is an abbreviation for the American Football Conference, which includes 16 teams divided into four divisions, including AFC North, AFC South, AFC East, and AFC West. 
  • 'NFC' is an abbreviation for the National Football Conference, which includes 16 teams divided into four divisions, including NFC North, NFC South, NFC East, and NFC West. 

While the answer above gives you an overview of the meaning of 'AFC' and 'NFC,' there is much more to learn. So, keep reading to find out what teams are in each division and why the NFL is split into two conferences.

What is the Difference Between 'AFC' vs. 'NFC?'

'AFC' and 'NFC' are abbreviations for the American Football Conference and National Football Conference, respectively.

The conferences were created in 1970 when the National Football League (NFL) merged with the American Football League (AFL).

Each contains 16 teams divided into four divisions:

  • North
  • South
  • East
  • West

As of the 2020 football season, there are 14 teams, seven from each conference, that play in the playoffs. The best team from each division plus the three teams with the best records following those four teams from the entire conference.

So, technically, all of the teams in a division could play in the playoffs. Each team plays at least one playoff game. The best teams in each division automatically advance to the divisional playoffs.

The remaining teams are matched up according to their rankings. The third-best team is paired with the lowest-ranking wildcard team. The winners from those games are then seeded to determine which of the three winning teams will go on to play in the divisional playoffs.

Winners from the divisional playoffs advance to the conference championship, which determines the team from that conference will advance to the Superbowl.

Teams in the 'AFC'

Here are the teams that are in the 'AFC':

AFC South: 

  1. Houston Texans
  2. Indianapolis Colts
  3. Jacksonville Jaguars
  4. Tenessee Titans

AFC North: 

  1. Baltimore Ravens
  2. Cincinnati Bengals
  3. Cleveland Browns
  4. Pittsburgh Steelers

AFC East: 

  1. Buffalo Bills
  2. Miami Dolphins
  3. New York Jets
  4. New England Patriots

AFC West

  1. Las Vegas Raiders
  2. Denver Broncos
  3. Kansas City Chiefs
  4. Los Angeles Chargers

Teams in the 'NFC'

NFC teams include:

NFC North

  1. Chicago Bears
  2. Minnesota Vikings
  3. Detroit Lions
  4. Green Bay Packers

NFC South

  1. Atlanta Falcons
  2. New Orleans Saints
  3. Carolina Panthers
  4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC East

  1. Dallas Cowboys
  2. New York Giants
  3. Philadelphia Eagles
  4. Washington Football Team (Washington Redskins)

NFC West: 

  1. Seattle Seahawks
  2. San Francisco 49ers
  3. Arizona Cardinals
  4. Los Angeles Rams

Definition of 'AFC': What Does 'AFC' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, 'AFC' is an abbreviation of:

  • American Football Conference

Definition of 'NFC': What Does 'NFC' Mean?

The same source defines 'NFC' as the abbreviation of:

  • National Football League

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'AFC' vs. 'NFC'

Next, we will look at the pronunciation of 'AFC' vs. 'NFC.' Whether you are using these terms in verbal or non-verbal communication, knowing the proper pronunciation is crucial.

As an English language learner or public speaker, knowing the correct way to say a term will give you confidence to use the term. As a writer, learning correct pronunciation can help you to remember the meaning of a term and how to spell it.

So, here is a guide for pronouncing 'AFC' vs. 'NFC.'

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'AFC':


  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'NFC':


Why Does the NFL Have the 'AFC' and 'NFC?'

Before 1970, the 'AFC' and 'NFC' were separate leagues, the American Football League and the National Football League. When the AFL and NFL merged, the conferences were created.

These divisions help the NFL to manage the teams and schedule them for regular season and post-season games.

When to Use 'AFC' vs. 'NFC'

You know that these are both abbreviations that represent the two conferences in the NFL, but here are a few tips to help you determine how and when to use each.

  • Use 'AFC' when you are discussing one of the teams in the conference.

As an example, I might say:

I am shocked that the Seattle Seahawks won the AFC championship. 

  • Use 'AFC' to discuss that conference's regular-season and post-season games.

For example, you could say:

Have you watched all of the regular-season AFC games this season?

  • Use 'AFC' or 'NFC' to indicate a specific conference or to discuss differences between them.

So, you can say:

The only team in the NFL to ever switch from the AFC to the NFC is the Seattle Seahawks. 

  • Use 'NFC' as an abbreviation for National Football Conference or to discuss a team's ranking within the division.

For example, you might say:

The San Francisco 49ers currently lead the NFC West division. 

Sample Sentences Using 'AFC' vs. 'NFC'

Here are some sample sentences that you can read to ensure that you know how to use these terms in different contexts.


  • The AFC was originally the American Football League.
  • New additions to the AFC, include the Baltimore Ravens in 1996, the returning Cleveland Browns in 1999, and the Houston Texans in 2002.
  • When the Cleveland Browns joined the AFC, they were the 31st NFL team.
  • The New England Patriots have been the AFC champions 11 times and went on to win the Super Bowl.
  • After becoming the AFC Champions, the Patriots have gone on to win the Super Bowl six times.


  • The NFC was originally the National Football League.
  • In the 1980s and 1990s, many people would argue that the NFC was the strongest of the two conferences.
  • Some of the most-watched teams in the NFC are the Greenbay Packers, Dallas Cowboys, San Francisco 49ers, and the Los Angeles Rams.
  • The Dallas Cowboys have won eight Conference Championships, more than any other team in the NFC.
  • The NFC teams with the most Super Bowl wins are the San Francisco 49ers and the Dallas Cowboys, with five each.


  • AFC and NFC teams never play in the regular season.
  • The only time AFC and NFC teams play each other is in the Super Bowl.
  • Is your favorite team part of the AFC or NFC?
  • The Seattle Seahawks were originally an AFC expansion team, but later, they were moved to the NFC West division in 2002 when the NFL realigned the conferences and switched from three divisions in each to four.

Review of the Difference Between 'AFC' vs. 'NFC'

We went over a ton of information. So, here is a recap of what you learned about the difference between 'AFC vs. 'NFC':

  • 'AFC' and 'NFC' are conferences in the NFL.
  • 'AFC' is an abbreviation for the American Football Conference.
  • 'NFC' is an abbreviation for the National Football Conference.

Terms like these are easy to mix up. So, if you need to know the meanings of others like these, visit the confusing words section here.

You will find hundreds of informative guides that teach you the definitions, proper grammar, usage, and pronunciation of the terms they cover. So, they are an excellent way to learn new words and essential grammar rules.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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